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Friday, November 30, 2007

Blasting The Electoral College

In my wonderful little web poll, I carefully worded the question to say, “If it were possible for you to vote for the President of the United States” thus implying that presently we have no such right. Essentially, we the people do not vote for the president of the United States. If you cannot elect the leader of your country, what do we call that? Disenfranchisement! Congratulations. Have a party! Your vote counts—FOR NOTHING! Okay so technically we have the right to vote, but does such a right matter if your vote doesn’t matter?

Let me back things up. There are people who are my age and older who actually believe that their vote counts. They’ve never head of the term “Electoral College”. They don’t have the slightest clue about how our electoral process works. That in itself is sad because we are becoming a nation of uninformed people who allow the television to do our thinking for us. So the first question is how does America elect her president? Check out this passage from the great “Wiki”,

“The election of the leader of the United States and the Vice President of the United States is indirect. Presidential electors are selected on a state by state basis as determined by the laws of each state. Currently each state uses the popular vote on Election Day to appoint electors. Although ballots list the names of the presidential candidates [To make you think you’re making a decision. Kinda like when you give a kid a toy that imitates some real thing that he isn’t allowed to play with. You end up making him feel special, while in actuality you still have all the power], voters within the 50 states and the District of Columbia are actually choosing Electors from their state when they vote for President and Vice President. These Presidential Electors in turn cast the official (electoral) votes for those two offices. Although the nationwide popular vote is calculated by official and media organizations, it does not determine the winner of the election.”

Suppose that your family was trying to decide what they wanted to have for dinner. It boils down to Mexican vs. Italian. You guys all vote for one or the other. Then your Dad comes in and says “Guess what I’ll make the finally decision based on whatever the popular vote is.” Grant it this is a crude example of how the Electoral College works because we the people actually elect our electors based on our votes (democrat or republican/ Mexican vs. Italian). How a state votes determines his elector. In theory an elected elector is one who has an allegiance to a particular party, but there have been cases of faithless electors or electors who vote opposite of the way they have pledged.

To make things more complicated, the number of electors (or electoral votes) a state gets is based on its population. So some states are more “enfranchised” than others based on sheer size! Its almost like George Orwell penned in his book Animal Farm, “All [people] are equal, but some [people] are more equal than others.” New York votes, for example, have more weight than Rhode Island votes because New York currently has 31 electoral votes while Rhode Island gets a meager 4. Poor Delaware gets just 3 votes. Theoretically, all a candidate has to do is win over the most populous states and then the election is his. If all this sounds a bit confusing to you there’s a good reason for that: because it is!

Again I’m no political scientist (far from it), but somehow this just seems, I don’t know, UNFAIR! Recall the presidential election of 2000 when Gore won the popular vote, but Bush ended up president because of the Electoral College (thanks a lot electors!). That means that people wanted Gore, but the electoral votes overrode that. Because the president of the US makes decisions that directly affect the people, shouldn’t the people be electing him directly? Isn’t that what we as a nation are always boasting about? Our liberties and freedoms? We brag about how we are the greatest nation in the world because we can appoint our leaders, yet our most important leader is elected by an arbitrary and antiquated system that ultimately disenfranchises us all. Aren’t we currently in a “War on Terror” ostensibly to ensure the Iraqi people are free from dictatorship? We want to make sure that the Iraqis can elect their political leaders, when in effect we cant! Emimen had it right when he labeled the US the “Democracy of Hypocrisy”.*

So now that you know what I think about the Electoral College, what conclusion can we take from all of this? This whole discussion of keeping the Electoral College, amending it, or getting rid of it altogether has been going on for ages. It has been discussed most recently with the proposal of the 2004 Every Vote Counts Amendment, which would support the popular vote. My guess is that because of the traditionalist’s attitudes of many Americans and because of the ignorance that many Americans have about how our political system works, we will probably always have the current system. But regardless of one’s personal opinion on the Electoral College, most of us can admit that it certainly has fallibility. In other words, it is something that we all need to think about because the system affects us all. We can’t blindly go along with it without questioning it. We have to understand it, analyze it and come to logical conclusions about it. As adamantly as I oppose it, even I can’t undermine the Electoral College’s significance. In the end, we must consider whether the system is inherently good by protecting us again demagogues and political extremists, or inherently bad by infringing upon our rights to select the leader that makes our most important political decisions.

*How seldom can anyone agree with someone as psychotic as Emimen? And for those who are thinking it…No I don’t listen to his stuff anymore but the guy, however screwed up he is, makes some good points sometimes.


"L is for Loquacious" said...

Hmm...interestingly enough I am about 3/4 finished with a blog which poses a similar question, does your vote matter?

I do wanna say this:
I know it's gonna sound odd but currently the electoral college, in some sick and twisted way, actually levels the playing field for minority voters. I'm sure you've noticed in the grand scheme of things we're outnumbered. But look at the states with the largest number of EC votes; Cali, my current state of residence TX, NY and FL. I think we're going to see politicians become increasing forced to speak to black and brown issues (assuming those issues parallel) whether they like it or not. Theoretically speaking of course. We should talk about the subtleties of this representative democracy during our next 1103 conference call. It's actually kind of interesting.

Peace sis.

"L is for Loquacious" said...


...or we're going to see state and local politicians become increasingly adept at disenfranchising minority voters.

Grata said...

In East Africa, we had this impression that the US is a near perfect democracy with little corruption. The Bush/Gore election changed that and guess what, It has given African despots a perfect excuse to continue doing what they are good at since the ambassadors of democracy themselves are just as corrupt.
And Iraq didn't help matters either. So global instability is being propelled in more indirect ways than people realize.